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From Skyhawk to Viking, Filip Fullerton is Ready to Prove Himself at the Next Level

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From Skyhawk to Viking, Filip Fullerton is Ready to Prove Himself at the Next Level

Kyle Pinnell

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As Southridge players wandered around the weight room, waiting to play pick-up games after another long preseason workout, one noticeable player was missing. Filip Fullerton, the blonde-haired, 6’9” forward, was still going through the assigned workout long after everyone had left, not cheating a single rep.

As the rest of the team huddled up to break for the gym, assistant coach Dave Nuss asked the group a single question: “Does anyone notice who’s missing?”

At the time Fullerton had verbally committed to Portland State and knew that he would be playing competitive basketball after high school. He had shown that he was good enough to make it to the next level, yet he was the one working like he had the most to prove.

Next season, Fullerton will become the first Southridge Skyhawk to play Division-One basketball on a scholarship. After five years of playing for the Southridge basketball program– both in Jr. Metro and in high school– Fullerton is ready to work even harder so he can make it at the next level and succeed at Portland State.

The Road to D1 Basketball

Filip was in fifth grade when he first decided that he wanted to play basketball competitively. It all started at a summer basketball camp at the Beaverton Hoop YMCA, run by former Oregon State player Lamar Hurd.

The first thing Hurd saw in Fullerton was the joy with which he played the game.

“[Fullerton] just had fun. He never put any pressure on himself. He enjoyed his teammates, and he was a great teammate himself,” Hurd said.

Courtesy of the Fullerton’s

In eighth-grade, Fullerton decided to try out for the Southridge Junior Metro program. When Southridge varsity head coach Phil Vesel first saw him that year, he did not envision the pure, effective jumper and floor-spacing ability that Fullerton has now. Instead, Vesel saw some of the other telltale signs of a great player: the feel for the game, basketball IQ, ability to finish, and intangibles such as work effort and leadership.

Fullerton was the rare player that made junior varsity as a freshman and then varsity as a sophomore thanks, in-part, to his height and raw ability.

During his sophomore season, Fullerton did not see the floor a lot, but he gained valuable experience for upcoming seasons and learned that in order to get more minutes, he had to get in much better shape.

Whereas his sophomore summer was spent working mostly on his body, Fullerton used his junior summer to commit to skill work while playing AAU basketball on the side. Instead of sleeping in or hanging out with his friends, Fullerton spent every day working on his ball handling skills in the driveway.

Another aspect of Fullerton’s game that grew during the offseason was his shooting ability. When he first joined the program, Vesel thought of him as a back to the basket player who could be a viable option for offense in the post. However, over the summer Fullerton would go to Shoot 360 or even 24-hour Fitness every day to get hundreds of shots up. Now he’s viewed as a floor-spacing big man who can hit the three-ball at a high clip– a skill that is key to the Skyhawks three-happy offense.

“When he decided to commit himself is when he separated himself from a good player to a great player,” Vesel said.      

Now in his senior season, Fullerton has an impressive list of accomplishments: making it to the second-round of the playoffs and helping the Hawks win the Metro League for the first time in school history.    

One memory Fullerton will take away with him was playing against Beaverton in the second round of the playoffs a year ago.

“It was a crazy atmosphere, and I loved it,” Fullerton said. “Coming from that sophomore year when we played horrible, it felt amazing to win the first round and then actually get to the second round. It made me more hungry and want to go even further this year.”                                              

Courtesy of the Fullerton’s

This season, Fullerton has stepped into the leadership role for a senior-laden Skyhawk team. When the Hawks are going through a cold spell on the court, he is usually the one calling the other four guys on the floor into a huddle to calm down.

“He’s a good leader for us. He’s vocal, he gets our guys focused, and he’s one of our hardest working guys at practice,” Vesel said. “He’s able to lead by example and be a vocal leader; that’s a great combination.”

“He’s a natural leader without having to say much. He just knows, works, and kind of leads by example, and sometimes those are the most powerful leaders,” AAU coach Jeff Williams added.

Improvement Outside of School

After his sophomore season at Southridge concluded, Fullerton decided to join Team Fly, an AAU club based out of “The Practice Facility” in Tigard.

At Team Fly, Fullerton played under Jeff Williams, who coaches for the program but is also an assistant coach at Chemeketa Community College. When he first saw Fullerton play, Williams keenly observed the quickness he had and the fluidity he moved with as a big guy.

As Coach Williams got to know Fullerton better throughout the summer, he figured out early on that he had what it takes to become a Division-One athlete.

“The beautiful thing about Filip’s game is that he can affect the game without scoring the basketball,” Williams said. “He doesn’t have to be the leading scorer, but he can be. He doesn’t have to be the leading rebounder, but he can be. It’s just his overall effect when he’s on the floor. Defensively, offensively, it’s impressive.”

While AAU has been heavily criticised for not developing players, Filip got out of it just what he needed — a platform to showcase his skills while further improving on his strength and conditioning in the offseason.

During the summer, Fil got to go up against players that he might never see in the Metro League. At some bigger tournaments, Filip played in front of multiple college scouts. His new coach at Portland State, Barret Peery, saw Fil play across the country including the Pump Brothers Tournament in Anaheim where he played some of his best basketball of the summer. Instead of traveling a few miles to Southridge, Peery was flying hundreds of miles to see Fil. “Funny enough it was Portland State all the way over in Anaheim watching me,” Fullerton said.

While playing for Team Fly, Filip started to notice that the game became easier for him and he was one of the best players on a floor full of talented players. It was at this point Fil realized that there was a chance he could play at the college level following his senior season at Southridge. Just a few months later he signed his letter of intent to play for Coach Peery at Portland State University.

Next Stop, Portland State

After his junior year, Fullerton started to get notified by teams who were interested in recruiting him to play for their program. He got calls from Colorado, Portland State, Colorado State, and Montana. Fullerton decided to commit to Portland State, a school very close to home.

Fullerton cited many reasons for why he chose to attend Portland State. At PSU, Fullerton has the opportunity to play in front of his friends and family every home game which was a big selling point. The communication that he has with the coaching staff also helped lure him to PSU. Every day, Peery sends him a message like an inspirational quote. The communication was constant, something Fullerton couldn’t say for every school who tried to recruit him. “Even though I hadn’t committed or anything at the time, I still felt like I was a part of the team,” Fullerton said.

At Southridge, Fullerton developed skills that can immediately transfer over to the college level. The effort that Fil plays with and his work ethic were all cited by Hurd, Vesel, and Peery. “He’s the first one in the gym and the last to leave,” Williams said. Playing at the college level where every player has dominated in high school, the work ethic and desire to get better is something that will set Fullerton apart.

According to his coaches, one thing that Fullerton needs to work on is his strength and physicality, something that most incoming college players need. At Portland State, Fullerton will be going up against players who are much older and even more developed both physically and mentally.

“As you make that change from high school to college and take that jump, there could be some days where there are guys who are 5 or 6 years older than you, and you never know,” Peery said. “There’s just a learning curve and change there, but Filip will do really well because he’s a winning person and he makes a good effort at all that he does.”

While Fullerton acknowledges the challenge of what he is walking into, he is also excited to get the opportunity to play close to home and represent Southridge High School at the next level.

Hurd, who knows a thing or two about watching elite players, offers some final advice for the outgoing senior.

“Play the game with no regrets. Don’t worry about what other people are saying about you, good or bad,” Hurd said. “Make sure you’re being the best teammate you can be, shoot the shots that you have practiced your whole life, and play the game that you’ve played your whole life.”

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